We are in Belo sur Tsiribihina, just having finished a gourmet (no kidding) meal at the Mad Zebu. I had the duck. I have lots of my journal to post so will put one up. Posting was very difficult at our hotel the last couple of nights. So here are my notes for drive from Antananarivo:
We woke early to get breakfast and pack our things for the drive, as José had said that he would pick us up at 8. When we got down for breakfast at 7:15 he was already waiting, a very good sign.
We headed out of town in the busy traffic. For the first several hours of the trip the roads were busy, busy, busy. There were people walking, on bicycles, motorbikes, in taxi brouses (mini buses), cars and trucks. There were also zebu carts, zebus and chickens, and pousse pousse (bicycle and human pulled rickshaws).
The landscape changed constantly during our eight hour journey as we left the Central Highlands. What was constant were the rice fields, some recently planted, others being planted as we passed. I was pleasantly surprised that many rice fields were green since we are travelling in the winter, leaving most things quite brown.
I am not used to being the passenger when travelling. When Po and I travel I am usually the driver and choose to stop the car to take photographs. Today I took many photographs on the fly, just point and snap. I then developed a routine with Jose, asking him to stop. He realized that I wanted to get our of the car, which was certainly best, but I am pleased with some shots I took from the car as we were moving.
Madagascar is one big market. We had visited a few of the various markets in Tana. It was the same in the smaller towns where little stalls line both sides of the road. People are selling all sorts of goods. There is little sign of regular shops.
We stopped in the town of Ambatolampy which is known for its aluminum recycling industry. They take a variety of objects that contain aluminum, melt them down and turn them into pots and other objects which are then sold throughout Madagascar. The lack of safety procedures is mind boggling. Men in bare feet stand next to where molten aluminium is being poured.
We learned that towns have their own special industries. In addition to Ambatolampy with its aluminium, we passed through towns known for stones, miniature vehicles, statues of the Virgin Mary, vegetables, and musical instruments.
In one small town José pulled to the side. We had a flat tire, which a group of men by the roadside quickly confirmed. José went to work with lots of supervision. Shortly thereafter another 4 by 4 stopped. He was José’s friend. He jumped out and helped with the change. He had one tourist with him, a Dutch guy, travelling by himself. The tourist had just flown into Madagascar and on the spot arranged a four week tour with a guide. Meanwhile I had everything arranged for months. Although his itinerary sounded like ours, he decided not to do the cruise. He had read someone’s review that said it was boring. We shall see. I am looking forward to it.
A little later we found his vehicle stopped beside the road. The Dutch guy was out of the car with his camera. José pulled his car over, and I ran out with my camera. There were people panning for gold in a stream. I took some photographs. It turned out that the other driver was concerned about his own vehicle. We waited for his quick repairs and followed them into our destination.
We checked into our hotel,the Princesse Tsirbihina. It is a nice lodge with separate bedroom units on a hill above the dining room. It was a very lovely spot overlooking the river..
All of our hotels outside of Antananarivo are on a half board basis, breakfast and supper. We were okay with that since many of the hotels are in remote areas and are the only place to eat anyway. It seems that many of the these hotels will give us a choice of only one to two dishes. Since Po and I eat almost anything, we should be fine.
At check in we were asked to choose our supper choice for that evening of zebu or tilapia. I chose the zebu for the second night in a row. Po asked for the tilapia. We took our much needed showers. Reviews were mixed on hot water. But we hot plenty of solar heated water.
We went back to the dining room to meet up with José and be introduced to our guide for the next three days, Johnny Archy. Johnny explained the plan for the cruise and that we had to start the next day by checking in with the local police.
We had dinner. I really enjoyed mine, but Po’s tilapia was a small fish cooked whole that has lots of bones. Tasty, but hard to eat.
The room was a bit warm. There are screens on the windows but not on the sliding door. You can open the door and take your chances on bugs, of which there were not many and use the mosquito net or live with it being a bit warm. Po would not consider the door being open. Luckily it was not too warm.
There were no mosquitos to be seen, which makes me wonder about all our precautions. I will be happy to have messed with the malaria pills for no reason.